The Joe Biden-Xi Jinping Summit: Nothing Accomplished?

November 16, 2023 Topic: U.S.-China Relations Region: Global Tags: ChinaAPECXi JinpingGreat Power Competition

The Joe Biden-Xi Jinping Summit: Nothing Accomplished?

Despite Washington and Beijing’s apparent satisfaction with the meeting, the tensions at the heart of the relationship show no signs of abating.


In the end, the clearest illustration in San Francisco of this trajectory was the two sides’ treatment of the Taiwan issue. It really is the key litmus test of the U.S.-China relationship and obviously Beijing’s top priority. At the meeting, Xi repeated what we have heard many times: that “the Taiwan question remains the most important and sensitive issue” in the relationship and Washington “should take real actions to honor its commitment[s]” under the “one China” framework. For his part, Biden repeated that “our one China policy has not changed” and that “the United States opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side.” He also “called for restraint in the PRC’s use of military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.” Both sides thus continue to blame each other entirely for cross-Strait tensions.

This exchange constituted neither progress of any kind nor a readiness to substantively address the single greatest (and growing) threat to stability in U.S.-China relations and to peaceful coexistence. In that vital respect, the San Franciso meeting accomplished nothing.


About the Author

Paul Heer is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia from 2007 to 2015. He is the author of Mr. X and the Pacific: George F. Kennan and American Policy in East Asia (Cornell University Press, 2018).